Social Justice is a term that has its’ origins deeply embedded in Western Judeo-Christian philosophy and theology. Plato, Aristotle, Jesus of Nazareth, St. Paul, the early Church Fathers Augustine and Aquinas taught in detail concepts of social justice based on Classical Philosophy and the Biblical principle of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” and “love God and love your neighbor”. Concepts of caring for those living on the margin are deeply incorporated into the Western tradition. In our own Constitution Thomas Jefferson penned “all men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” The rights he was talking about were specifically Natural Rights that are given by God to all people—The right to life, liberty and property. There are other types of rights such as legal rights, social rights and moral rights—all considered to be secondary and dependent on Natural Law Rights.
Legal scholars—Brandis, Hopfield and Finn divided rights as being “claim rights” or “liberty rights” Claim rights require a duty or responsibility of a party that grants the right. Governments create laws that are “claim rights”. As such these rights can be changed or taken away. Liberty rights do not entail obligations of other parties. Natural Rights are liberty rights and are given to man by God—or if one is not a believer are a result of our “humanity” Ayn Rand
In 1842 Fr. Luigi Tappereli coined the phrase “social justice” and along with his student the future Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Revorum stated that all men needed equal access to markets for goods and labor, and that this was the specific responsibility of individuals and not governments. “Render Unto Cesar” and the story of the talents were sited throughout the writings of both men, supporting their positions in the utility of capitalism and free markets as a means of distributing wealth. Pope Leo was an adamant anti-Communist. Though only an amateur economist he saw the conflict between Marx’s theory of labor, and the inevitable exploitation of labor. He supported labor unions as an economic force, but not as a political tool.
In the early 20th century with the merging of Marxist economic theory with the Progressive social and political movements the focus of both Protestant and Catholic social justice academics changed to embracing concepts of “redistributive justice” and the reallocation of material wealth from one group to another. Notice how the emphasis changed from an individual responsibility of neighbor to neighbor, to the State becoming the agent for redistribution, in an attempt to create equities. It took the responsibility of developing talents and skills away from the individual and gave that responsibility to a “system”. It took the responsibility of people caring for each other and giving of their own wealth, to government where wealth is distributed by systems that neither created the wealth or could be responsible for the wealth it distributes when used in a non-efficacious fashion. Charity is a form of giving and because what we give is the fruit of our own labor it is a gift. A government transfer program is not a gift, it is not charity, and in the economic sense it is not a contribution to “the common good”. When politicians give out tax dollars to constituents they are in the position of agent because they receive a benefit for their largesse—a vote. When they are an agent for their constituents they are no longer a representative. They become an ombudsman—a very different and potentially conflicting role.
For social justice to be popular with a people there must be victims and oppressors in an equation that many believe to be a zero-sum game. Capitalism with free markets is not a zero-sum game. Thus, politicians see an opportunity to create factions where factions don’t exist. They place blame and responsibility onto innocent groups. Nobody is responsible for their gender, or their skin color, or their nationality, yet by making people victims and oppressors, the conflict thus created allows politicians seeking power to leverage envy, covertness’, and even hate to further their own ambitions. We alone have control of the hate in our hearts. That is something we all can individually be accountable for. The plight of the marginalized and oppressed is used to create a movement of “solidarity” that is only a means to an end. The means is creating a false hope and the end is power. In no totalitarian—authoritarian regime has the fortunes of the masses ever been improved—only those of the ruling class. Think of the Rasperieans in France, The Bolsheviks under Stalin, Nazi Germany, Communist China. Over 1 billion lost lives to totalitarianism in the 20th century with the promise of “social justice”.
Much has been written recently about the social justice movement in higher education, but the social justice movement has taken over our legal system, health care, and our large corporations. People in positions of responsibility either don’t have the knowledge to understand what “social justice” is really all about, or they don’t have the courage to stand up to the crowd of virtue signaling hypocrites who criticize the so called “oppressors”—who are the very leaders I mention in the disciplines I mention, not in the class of “oppressors”? Maybe by identifying with the so called “oppressed” they can get a free pass for themselves—think Coke, Nike, Starbucks, Boing, Merck, criticizing the Georgia election, when they themselves do business with the CCP who have placed millions—many of them Christians, in labor camps. And think of Major League Baseball pulling out of Atlanta for the All-Star Game when they are actively pursuing transactions for talent and other business deals in Cuba and China. People and organizations with virtue don’t have to “virtue signal”. A man or women of true virtue doesn’t need to advertise their virtue with a bumper sticker or a yard sign, or even a face mask. People of virtue need to start standing up to the “false prophet” virtue signaling mob. Officious smugness in my opinion is no virtue—think AOC and a half dozen RINOs. Just look at today’s Wall Street Journal on page A10-A11 under the banner of THE BLACK ECONOMIC ALLIANCE with the title “We Stand for Democracy” to see leaders of the “oppressive class” signaling their virtue. Then look to your Bible in Luke:18. 9-14. This is the Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both go up to The Temple to pray. The Pharisee prays by acknowledging his own goodness and righteousness before God. The tax collector begins his prayer with “have Mercy on me Lord.” Are the signers of the petition in today’s WSJ asking for mercy themselves or are they “virtue signaling” their own self-righteousness?
The original meaning of “social justice” has been usurped and expropriated from its’ original meaning formulated in the Protestant and Catholic Churches, by Progressive—Liberal—Marxists who are using it only as a means to their own end (power). They say they care but like those that have come before them, if they ever get the power they seek the only ones they will care for will be themselves.
Justice cannot be coerced. Without liberty, there can be no justice.